John McBride
January 6, 2014
Photos By: Chris Lacour

I've owned many Mustangs in the past. They were all Fox-bodies except for one '97 Cobra.

The last Mustang I owned prior to this '06 GT was a low-mileage '85 Mustang LX 5.0 coupe. Somehow Editor Evan Smith convinced me to sell it to him versus finishing the build—which was to be a Coyote swap. At least he took my plan to heart. In reality, with a new house, I had less time for building and I wanted to spend more time behind the wheel.

My choice was to grab a mostly stock S197 Mustang I had my eyes on. Once I had the car home, I thought about what my goal was and decided which modifications I wanted to perform to achieve the desired outcome.

I bought this '06 GT in 2010 for $2,000 below book value with low mileage in stock form, the only modifications being an aftermarket cold-air intake kit and Ford Racing Stinger axle-back mufflers. Like my other Mustangs, this one didn't remain stock for long.

After a couple of weeks, I was ordering parts and really got to know the UPS driver. Initially, I began with handling and stance by focusing on suspension, wheels, and tires. When I was ready to make more power, I knew my suspension mods would enable my Mustang to put the power down.

Since my goal with this car was to build something that could tear up the corners, I spent most of my money and time modifying the chassis and suspension. With the larger staggered 20-inch wheels and tires, I decided it would need more grunt, so I installed 4.10s and bought a tuner to dial in the mild performance mods.

In 2011, Ford released the '11 5.0-powered Mustangs. Thoughts of selling my GT came to mind, but I decided to stick with it since I had already put a lot of time and money into it. The handling of my S197 had improved quite a bit, and the 4.10 ratio gears gave me a little more grunt off the line, however, I knew it was time to add some hot rod power and attitude to my Three-Valve GT.

I was really happy with the Ford Racing Handling Pack, so I turned to Ford Racing again, this time for more power. What also got me fired up was the first time I heard Ford Racing's Hot Rod cams. They make good power and have an aggressive muscle car sound. I also decided to go with the Ford Racing composite intake manifold; polished, CNC, billet-aluminum 62mm throttle body; and cold-air kit, since it was all designed and developed by Ford Racing to work well with the cams.

The modifications would be pulling a lot more fuel and air into the engine, so I knew the stock exhaust wouldn't cut it. I turned to Kook's Headers for my exhaust system power needs. Kook's long-tube headers and high-flow, catted X-style mid-pipe would help me to expel hot gases, make more power, and amplify the rowdy sound of the Hot Rod cams. Best of all, these are simple mods that will add power, but help the GT retain excellent manners.

With all these modifications, some of them being beyond my wrenching capabilities, I would need help with getting these parts installed and my Mustang tuned. Lucky for me, I live close to Evolution Performance (Evo), I've heard great things about them, and have seen their Mustangs tearin' it up on the dragstrip. A couple phone calls discussing the project with Fred Cook we set a date.

Once I arrived at Evo, Chuck Wrzesniewski spun the wrenches on my Mustang, and Jon Lund of Lund Racing tuned it. The install was done in a day, and with the new tune the power is amazing. The 4.10s give it the pickup of a newer GT, and the FRPP intake, along with the Three-Valve cam covers, give the engine a great hot-rod look. But best of all, the engine picked up 76 rwhp, plus the cams and exhaust give it an aggressive sound.

Ford Racing’s intake manifold, 62mm throttle body, cold air intake, and Hot Rod performance camshafts can wake up any GT. We’re also going to throw on a set of Steeda underdrive pulleys, Kook’s long-tube headers, and catted X-style mid-pipe while we’re at it.
1. We started by disconnecting the battery. Next we removed the stock cold-air intake assembly, breather hose, disconnected the fuel line, and removed the fuel rails and injectors. Tip: Always use caution disconnecting the fuel line especially if you decide to begin your install shortly after running the engine.
2. We had to remove the check valve and hose to the brake booster to get to some of the intake bolts. Finally, we are able to remove the intake manifold, and throttle body. Tip: You should change your spark plugs every two years or 20,000 miles. Even though this GT had fairly low mileage, I wasn’t sure when the spark plugs were changed last so we went ahead and changed them.
3. Before we removed the cam covers, we placed tape over the intake ports to keep any debris from getting inside the engine. We also cleaned up any dirt or debris that could be lying on top of the engine. Next, we carefully placed the wiring harness in the center of the engine, allowing us clear access to the cam covers. We then unplugged and removed the coil packs. Next, we needed to remove the battery as well as move the coolant tank out of the way to get access to the cam cover bolts on the passenger side. Removing these parts will also allow us to get to the exhaust header bolts later on.
4. Then it was time to get to the camshafts. We disconnected the camshaft position sensor connector, and then removed the bolt and the sensor. Next, we removed the three designated camshaft roller followers. The camshaft roller followers must be installed in their original locations. Record camshaft roller follower locations. Next rotate the crankshaft clockwise, as viewed from the front, positioning the crankshaft damper spoke at the 6 o’clock position and the timing mark indentation at the 7 o’clock position. Then the timing chain wedge tool should be installed square to the timing chain and the engine block. Then we removed the camshaft bearing caps. The camshaft bearing caps must be installed in their original locations. Make sure to record camshaft bearing cap locations. Lastly, remove the bolt and withdraw the camshaft from the camshaft phaser and sprocket assembly, leaving the camshaft phaser and sprocket assembly in place.
5. Here we see the stock cam (top) next to the FRPP Hot Rod cam (bottom). Even though part numbers are clearly marked on the box and cams are marked accordingly. Always double check to make sure you have the correct cam for each side. Putting the wrong cams on the wrong side would be catastrophic.
6. Before the camshafts went in, we lubed the camshaft journals. You will need two new camshaft bolts (PN 3L3Z-6279-DA). Insert camshaft phaser and sprocket bolt and tighten hand tight.
7. Here, Chuck installed the camshaft bearing caps. Torque the bearing caps down to 89 lb-in. Now the camshaft roller followers can be installed. Next, the new phaser and sprocket bolt is tightened down in two steps. Step 1: Tighten to 30 ft-lb; Step 2: Tighten an additional 90 degrees. Again, note that the followers and bearing caps should be replaced in the exact locations they were removed. Lastly, add some assembly lube to the top of the camshaft lobes. Repeat procedures for the opposite side.
8. With the cams are installed, it was time to replace the cam covers. Before starting, make sure the mounting surface is clean for a good seal. You will also need to add a small dab of sealant at the corner where the timing cover meets the cylinder head. Tighten down the cam cover bolts. For detailed descriptions and diagrams, be sure to check out Download/InstructionSheets.asp.
9. Let’s face it—the stock Mustang GT Three-Valve cam covers are, well…ugly. If you’re going to go through all the trouble of putting these beautiful new parts under the hood, then spend a few more bucks and pick up a set of these Ford Racing cam covers.
10. While we still have most everything out of our way, we decided to install a set of Steeda underdrive pulleys. Included in the set is a new water pump pulley and harmonic balancer. Steeda’s underdrive pulleys slow down accessory speed by about 25 percent, reducing parasitic accessory drag on the engine. This drag reduction results in an increase of up to 10 horsepower.

Once Evolution and Jon Lund finished up, I had an hour and a half drive home, which gave me a chance to see how my Mustang would act both on the highway, as well as in sticky traffic conditions. I've also had about a week to drive it around town to and from work a few times before writing this article.

The cams are pretty aggressive, but driveability is still good. Lund did a fantastic job tuning—the car makes smooth power and doesn't stall out. The power doesn't feel like it drops off at all on its way up to 6,800 rpm, and the car launches hard with the mods and 4.10 gears.

Lund did a fantastic job tuning, so the car makes smooth power and doesn't stall out.

Although my focus for this '06 GT is straightening out the corners, I'm anxious to get it to the dragstrip to see what kind of times my hot-rod Mustang will pull down.

The combination of my current muffler-delete axle-backs, the cams, and the Kooks exhaust components belts out serious exhaust notes. The Three-Valve feels a lot more responsive, and I can feel the extra horsepower and torque it's laying down.

11. The install is straightforward. Starting with the water pump pulley, remove the four bolts and stock pulley and replace with the new one. To get to the harmonic balancer you may need to remove the front sway bar and electric fan and shroud for clearance. Then remove bolt and harmonic balancer. The instructions recommend reusing the factory torque-to-yield harmonic balancer bolt, but to be safe, we used a new replacement bolt kit from ARP (PN 156-2501). Make sure to apply ARP ultra-torque fastener assembly lubricant to the bolt threads as instructed. Install washer and bolt hand tight then tighten to 100 lb-ft. Replace sway bar and fan assembly.
12. Before putting on the intake manifold, the fuel line hose is fed through each side underneath the intake manifold. The alternator support bracket also needed to have the holes enlarged to 0.25-inch and the ear bent down for clearance. Next, place the intake manifold onto the engine and tighten down the bolts to 89 in-lb.
13. Lastly, replace the fuel rails, injectors, connectors, evaporative system hose, and breather hose to the driver side of the intake manifold.
14. The Ford Racing 62mm twin-bore throttle body will help flow more air than the stock unit, plus it looks awesome. The throttle body bolts right onto the front of the intake manifold with four bolts, reattach connectors.
15. The Ford Racing cold-air intake will flow more air than our stock unit and has OEM quality and fit. First the airbox is bolted into place using the included hardware. Once secured into place, we then transferred the mass air meter from our stock airbox inlet tube to the new Ford Racing unit. Lastly, install the air intake tube from the airbox to the throttle body and tighten the hose clamps.
16. Now it’s time to install the Kook’s long-tube headers and high-flow catted X-style mid-pipe. Since we had access to a lift, Chuck went the route of dropping the K-member to complete the header installation. Although this isn’t the only way, this was the easiest and quickest way. Before dropping the K-member, make sure the engine is supported. The steering rack will also need to be disconnected and moved out of the way. Next, remove the motor mounts, starter, and disconnect O2 sensors. Next unbolt and remove the engine oil dipstick, factory header bolts, headers, studs, and stock catted mid-pipe.
17. Kooks supplies all hardware and gaskets with its long-tube headers. Chuck recommended using the stock header gaskets since they were in good shape. He installed the headers using new hardware.
18. Comparing the stock headers and catted X-style mid-pipe to the new Kooks equipment, you can really see the difference it’s going to make, in power as well as sound!
19. Before tightening down the driver-side header, install the dipstick assembly, and then tighten the header bolts.
20. Once the header installation is completed on both sides, the motor mounts, starter, steering rack, and K-member can be bolted back up. Then connect the front O2 sensors to the Kook’s headers.
21. The Kooks catted X-style mid-pipe is loosely bolted onto the ends of the headers and the rear exhaust pipes then adjusted for fit. Make sure all O2 sensors are tightened down and back in place.
22. Now for the moment of truth. Jon Lund of Lund Racing met us at Evolution Performance to dial in the new mods for performance and driveability on the ’06 Mustang GT. Our stock baseline tune with 4.10 gears was good for 255 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.
Lund performed an initial test run to make sure systems checked out and then made three full passes on the dyno, working his magic to optimize the tune. It ended up making 331 hp and 299 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 76 horsepower and 29 lb-ft of torque to the rear tires above the baseline figures. I was hoping for slightly higher numbers—don’t we all?—but Lund said the 4.10 gear ratio will drop the horsepower number down about 15-20. Also considering I had larger tires and that the air quality wasn’t the best that day, my Mustang was laying down good numbers. He’s seen Mustangs with similar mods, stock wheels, and a 3.31 or 3.55 gears putting down 365-370 rwhp.
Lund performed an initial test run to make sure systems checked out and then made three full passes on the dyno, working his magic to optimize the tune. It ended up making 331 hp and 299 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 76 horsepower and 29 lb-ft of torque to the rear tires above the baseline figures. I was hoping for slightly higher numbers—don’t we all?—but Lund said the 4.10 gear ratio will drop the horsepower number down about 15-20. Also considering I had larger tires and that the air quality wasn’t the best that day, my Mustang was laying down good numbers. He’s seen Mustangs with similar mods, stock wheels, and a 3.31 or 3.55 gears putting down 365-370 rwhp.